Networking During A Pandemic
At a time when face-to-face meetings have been greatly restricted, you can still grow your professional networks through virtual channels.
The pandemic has changed the way we live, work and play. Workplaces have been transformed as remote and hybrid work become the norm. How can employees continue to build professional relationship and networks in the absence of physical interactions and face-to-face meetings?
Successful networking can open doors to job opportunities, but beyond this, it is also important to connect with colleagues and mentors that can help you grow in your career.
Jobvite’s 2020 Job Seeker Nation report found that almost one in three (31%) employees obtained information about job openings through professional connections, and about half (45%) from friends.
When approaching networking, it is useful to think about what you bring to the relationship so that it can be sustained on a mutually beneficial basis. Relationships should be cultivated in good times – nothing turns a person off if you only come to them when you need help. Reach out to people in your network and ask them what you can do for them – bring value first to the people in your network.
Here are some tips on how you can network professionally during a pandemic.
Participate in virtual events
In-person conferences have been cancelled because of the pandemic, but virtual meetings are in. Participating in virtual coffee breaks, happy hours, lunch-time sessions, and exercise classes, can offer opportunities to meet new and interesting people in a relaxed setting. Interact by typing comments into the chat and continue the give-and-take of these conversations long after the Zoom session concludes.
Maintaining and building relationships are essential investments for yourself and your organisation. While the process will take time and effort, your deliberate, carefully planned strategy will help to promote your strengths and values and make you a more valuable employee in the long run.
Reconnect and check in
The pandemic provides a good opportunity to rekindle relationships with former classmates or colleagues online. You may wish to reconnect with them and ask them what they have been up to. This helps set the stage for you to discuss what you have been working on and build connections in other areas.
It is also a good time to check in with your existing network to see how they are holding up during this trying period. How are they doing personally and professionally? How have their organisations been handling the challenges during the pandemic?
These can also be great questions to ask individuals that you meet during virtual events or those with whom you are conducting interviews. It shows you are interested in them, their organisations, and the industry. At the same time, you will be gathering vital field-specific information that will help you look knowledgeable and resourceful during job interviews.
Identify industry-specific meetings
It may be a good idea to save on professional memberships as in-person meetings and conventions are largely on hold. Instead, figure out if your industry and relevant business groups are holding virtual meetings, which can offer excellent opportunities for you to meet new people and connect with existing contacts. Better yet, get involved in a committee or project to forge deeper relationships. Seek out networking groups online, including professional, alumni, and relevant groups.
Mr Geoff Tan, Chief Marketing Officer of OIO Singapore, which provides B2B blockchain consulting and development services said, “Networking amidst a pandemic entail recalibrating strategies previously utilised in offline scenarios and adapting these to be effective online. I make it a point to search out and participate in subject-specific professional virtual encounters such as webinars, fireside chats, Zoom training workshops, industry briefings. I have also been spending more time on LinkedIn connecting with peers, and my social media activities, posting and interacting across work-oriented content, have also intensified.”
While networking opportunities may have been limited to being at a physical location or event at a particular date and time, there are now endless possibilities for employees to connect with people and groups all around the world. Also, people tend to have more flexibility in their schedules when working from home, so it may be much easier and convenient to schedule a 15-minute phone call or video chat, compared to arranging for a face-to-face meet up. This can be followed-up with a personalised handwritten note or gift that will demonstrate sincerity and warmth which will be much appreciated during these times. Be creative and bold in experimenting what works best for you and your networks.